Any winemaker will tell you that harvest is a marathon and not a sprint. For Bellingham winemaker Richard Duckitt and his dedicated cellar team the final straight of the race is beckoning, but a mountain of work still awaits before they can call time on the picking of this year’s crop.
According to Richard, only about 20-30% of the grapes remain on the vine, but the recent rains and cooler weather in the Winelands have caused a delay in the ripening of late varieties like Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. The cellar is still a hive of activity though, with rackings, aerations and pump-overs requiring a lot of time and focus.
Most of the white wines have fermented dry, and Richard predicts that the 2019 vintage will be a memorable one in this regard. “There is a lovely opulent mouthfeel to this year’s white wines, combined with great purity of fruit and bright acidity,” he says. It should be a particularly good year for Chenin and Sauvignon Blanc, judging by the Bellingham young wines.
The red wines already fermenting are showing good colour and tannin. Richard says the grape yields are generally lower this year, a possible lingering effect of the drought of recent years. The fewer, smaller berries have good concentration however, with thick skins that require delicate handling in the cellar to avoid over-extraction. He is also excited about the development of the Pinotage this year, which is being fermented in open-top concrete tanks.
While the hard-working winemaking staff are starting to feel the brunt of months of demanding harvesting, they are inspired by the prospect of a truly excellent vintage waiting at the finish line. As Richard concludes, “Judging by the progress so far, consumers can look forward to an all-round fine offering of wines this year.”